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Raging infernos spread on both ends of California, killing 9 people

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CALIFORNIA — Three raging infernos on both ends of California have killed at least nine people, wiped out an entire town and forced a quarter million people from their homes.

As firefighters struggle to contain the trio of uncontrolled wildfires — the Camp, Woolsey and Hill fires — forecasters say intense winds and low humidity over the weekend could fuel the blazes and make them spread even farther.

In Northern California, evacuees trapped in traffic abandoned their cars and ran with their children in tow as the Camp Fire quickly closed in. Two fires in Southern California burned Malibu mansions to the ground and left employees at the Los Angeles Zoo racing to protect animals from the smoke. In Thousand Oaks, a community mourning 12 people killed in a bar this week, a recreation center where survivors grieved after the mass shooting was filled with people fleeing the fire.

Latest developments

•Death toll: The fast-moving Camp Fire killed at least nine people in Northern California. Some were inside cars and others were near or inside homes. They have not been identified.

Trump tweets: President Donald Trump blamed the wildfires on the “gross mismanagement of the forests” in a tweet early Saturday. “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” he said.

•Massive evacuations: Fire officials estimate the total number of people forced from their homes statewide is over 250,000.

•Burning and growing: By late Friday, the Camp Fire was the largest, swelling to 90,000 acres. The Woolsey Fire has torched about 35,000 acres while the Hill Fire was 4,531 acres.

•Containment: Firefighters are struggling to put down the flames. The Camp Fire is 5% percent contained while the Woolsey Fire remains uncontrolled. The Hill Fire was 15% contained.

•Destruction: In Northern California, at least 6,453 structures have been destroyed, including 80% to 90% of the homes in Paradise. In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, a significant number of homes were destroyed or damaged, fire officials said.

Camp Fire

The Camp Fire in Northern California is now considered the most destructive fire in the state’s modern history. In addition to killing at least nine people in Paradise, it has destroyed 6,453 structures.

Of those killed, five people were found in or near a vehicle and the other four were found in or outside a home.

The fast-moving blaze consumed most of Paradise, a town roughly 80 miles north of Sacramento. Families described the scenes of panic and terror they lived while escaping.

“The flames were whipping and spreading so fast,” Whitney Vaughan said after fleeing her home in Paradise. “It began to jump the road. There wasn’t anywhere to go.”

The town was mostly empty, and the main road littered with downed trees and power lines. Much of the brush and grasses were blackened along the valleys, and many trees were still burning. An estimated 52,000 people evacuated in Butte County, where Paradise is located.

Fire officials said three firefighters and some civilians were wounded but details about their injuries were unknown. About 35 people have been reported missing, authorities said.

Woolsey Fire

More than 200,000 people have fled in Ventura County and Malibu due to the Woolsey Fire, officials said.

Firefighters worked to protect thousands of students and staff sheltering in place at Pepperdine University on Saturday as flames started reaching the campus overnight, school officials said.

The fire crossed US 101 a few miles east of Thousand Oaks — the site of Wednesday night’s bar shooting — and was headed south to the Pacific coast, in the direction of Malibu Creek State Park and Malibu city, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

And in Malibu, mandatory evacuations were ordered for the entire city, where about 12,000 people live, and is known for celebrity beachside homes.

The howling Santa Ana winds fueled the Woolsey Fire. The Santa Anas are strong, dry winds that high-pressure systems push from east to west, from the mountains and desert areas down into the Los Angeles area.

A round of Santa Ana winds is forecast to whip the area Sunday through Tuesday, though it may be weaker than Friday’s.

Hill Fire

This is another fire burning near the site of this week’s mass shooting in Thousand Oaks.

It started Thursday and was initially spreading quickly, torching 10,000 acres in six hours. But firefighters have made some progress. As of Friday night, it was 15% contained.

Part of the blaze was burning into the footprint of a 2013 wildfire and that could slow its spread, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.

While no homes or businesses have been lost to the fast-moving blaze, a number of RVs and outbuildings have been burned and a firefighter suffered a minor injury, authorities said.

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